The Alaska Division of Elections will count thousands of absentee and question ballots Tuesday, possibly deciding the outcome of two Fairbanks legislative races that may determine the balance of power in the Alaska Legislature.
In House District 1, which covers downtown Fairbanks, Republican Bart LeBon leads Democrat Kathryn Dodge by 67 votes. In Senate District A, which covers House districts 1 and 2, Republican Senate President Pete Kelly leads challenger Scott Kawasaki by 11 votes.
Those figures are as of Monday morning. Under the state’s normal ballot-counting schedule, a first round of additional ballots will be tallied Tuesday. Another round will come Friday, and a third and final round will come next Wednesday.
“I’m on pins and needles as we go through this process,” Dodge said by phone from Fairbanks.
She isn’t the only one: Across the state, Alaskans will be watching the counting with interest. At the end of Election Day, the former House Republican Minority appeared to control 21 seats in the 40-person Alaska House of Representatives. That’s the bare minimum needed to control the House, and it includes LeBon.
“The House is in the balance,” LeBon said by phone from Fairbanks. “If Kathryn Dodge ends up winning, then it’s 20-20, and all bets are off. I’d say this is real important.”
The 20-member Senate is more firmly in the hands of a Republican-led majority, but if Kelly loses to Kawasaki, Democrats would hold seven seats in the body. If they join with moderate Republicans, the resulting coalition majority could have enough support to control the chamber.
“I can’t speak to that, but I can say a lot of people want change down in Juneau,” Kawasaki said from Fairbanks when asked if a coalition majority would follow his victory.
Kelly deferred comments until Friday, saying through a spokesman that he wants to await the results.
Preliminary figures for absentee votes favor the Republicans.
In House District 1, 177 of the 275 absentee ballots received through Election Day favored LeBon. In Senate District A, 502 absentee ballots were received through Election Day: 336 favored Kelly.
By phone, Kawasaki said that while absentee votes have favored Kelly, early votes have gone in his favor.
Figures from the Division of Elections show that of the 1,346 early votes cast before Election Day, 796 were for Kawasaki. Some “early votes” were cast at elections offices on Election Day (they receive that name because they were not cast at normal precinct polling places), and Kawasaki said he also expects to receive a majority of question ballots.
Senate District A includes Fort Wainwright, and a significant number of mailed-in absentee ballots may be included in the counts this week.
“There are so many people who have yet to vote, we want to make sure every vote counts,” he said. “Until those votes come in, we’re not ready to concede.”
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